*Warning* This post is lengthier than usual due to my passion on the topic.
Today’s topic doesn’t generally match the typical issues discussed on my blog, but it is a topic that has become increasingly important to me. Before I dive in, my goal with this post is truly to strike dialogue and to strive toward a solution, not to bash anyone or promote a particular way of thinking.
Over the last 20 months, I have been working more closely with the medical system than ever before. I was very happy with my midwife and the care I received through that practice, but have been unimpressed with most of the other “care” I have received. I put care in quotes because I have felt more like a product on a conveyor belt than an individual person with a unique body requiring extra attention (why else would I be seeing a medical professional?).
Before I share some of my experiences, I need to share a bit of my vision along with my understanding of reality. I get that healthcare providers are super busy. I understand that for some, healthcare is just a job, and for others it’s a passion. I have been shocked, however, as I have noticed most practitioners (based on my experience) seem to be trained to diagnose symptoms and prescribe medicine even when sometimes those symptoms are there to help the body fight a bigger underlying cause. Often lifestyle changes are more effective with fewer side effects than medication, but are rarely mentioned as an option (sometimes I think this is because the doctor genuinely has no clue it’s an option in certain cases). When lifestyle changes are mentioned, they are often vague like, “Eat a healthy diet and exercise”.
I would love to see doctors view themselves as detectives, educators and personal coaches. Detectives to truly learn about the human body and how each person’s body functions uniquely – to discover root causes rather than just symptoms. Educators in the sense that it is their responsibility to help their patients understand their bodies as well. At the very least, explain what the diagnosis is, what the medication prescribed does to help, other things that will help improve the problem and risks if left untreated. They are coaches as their goal should be to help each patient achieve optimal health. For example, encourage patients to drink lots of water while they are sick. If a patient struggles with that, help him come up with ideas to increase fluids and have a follow-up phone call. I know all this may sound crazy, but that is my view of optimal health care.
Now, here is some of what I have seen over the past 20 months. After having Samuel, there were problems we both faced. I’ll start with Samuel.
We had our first issues before leaving the hospital. Samuel was exclusively breastfed. Babies who have breast milk do not urinate as much in the first few days as formula fed babies. Samuel was clearly urinating, but the pediatrician was worried because he only had two wet diapers (very normal based on what we were told by the nurses and lactation consultants). Rather than giving us the ok to go home at 4:00pm, when we were ready, we had to stay until 10pm when Samuel would have another wet diaper. We were told to use water, formula or whatever means necessary – really? Why? Nothing was wrong.
Samuel was a screamer from very early on. There was clearly something wrong. Samuel’s pediatrician was constantly trying to get me to stop nursing for 24 hours to try various things. This was ridiculous because most foods take up to 14 days to leave the mother’s milk. Not only that, but there was no instruction on pumping or how to keep up supply during this time (critical in the first couple of months as the supply is becoming established). Samuel was on so many medicines, it was ridiculous. I didn’t stop nursing and finally switched doctors. It still took months to discover he had a protein allergy.
When the protein allergy was fixed, something was still wrong. Samuel would scream and scream when it was time to sleep or when he was laid down in general. Most doctors told me he was fine and just needed to cry it out. I knew this was not the case and fought for answers. Turns out he has a physiological condition that causes him to have bad reflux. If untreated, this condition could cause irreparable long term damage. His current medication was no longer working.
Now, for what I have faced with my own health. I had to have reparative surgery after delivery. The surgeon was fantastic and was willing to do a spinal rather than the traditional general anesthesia so I would only have 8 hours rather than 24-48 when I couldn’t nurse Samuel. We had just discovered Samuel’s protein allergy and I had just started the new diet. I couldn’t start saving milk until just before surgery and would not be able to save enough for 25-48 hours. However, this was not how things worked out. When the nurse was giving me my pre-surgery meds, she wasn’t sure one of them should be used with me nursing and my case. She asked the anesthesiologist before administering it, and he gave the go ahead. He never looked at my chart!! He didn’t realize I was to have a spinal. The shot the nurse gave me could NOT be used with a spinal – it could cause death. I was now forced to have general anesthesia.
I am currently working with a doctor’s office that has performed incorrect x-rays, failed to send in important samples for testing (not sure how that happened), gets frustrated and refuses to check when I call to make sure current samples have bern sent in, etc. I am wondering if the current issue is a gluten intolerance. When I mention that, they look at me funny and say – that’s rare. It’s not likely. (I’m currently taking gluten out of my diet to see if it makes a difference while I wait on test results that I should already have – based on what they told me – to rule out other causes.)
These are just a handful of the experiences we have had. It really decreases my faith in the medical community. What would have happened in these cases had I not fought and done a lot of my own research? Should I have to fight to get good medical care? Should I have to double check everything to make sure it is safe for breastfeeding? Should I have to fight to be seen as a person and not a process?
What are your thoughts? How have your experiences been? What can we do to make a difference?